Nitsch’s private mysticism with Beuschl and color

Groups of relaxed smiling people in blood-soaked white robes, floral decorations all around, disemboweled animal bodies on crosses, the air filled with a mixture of incense, blossom and blood scents, above them clouds quickly passing by in the Weinviertel sky – precisely calculated images and sensory impressions like those in Nitschs since 1957 conceived main work, a theater without borders, which claims to touch the deepest psychological constants, will probably not be found in such a concentrated form anywhere else apart from the Prinzendorf Castle.

Here, on Saturday and Sunday, over 60 actors – as the artist called the performers in his “Orgien Mysterien Theater” – performed their 160th action, which was also the first after Nitsch’s death on Easter Sunday of this year. Twenty-four years have passed since the infamous first performance of this happening, which is no coincidence based on the duration of the Christian story of creation, during which Nitsch revised the meticulously planned sequence or, as he put it in his terminology, “perfected it”.

Photo series with 6 pictures

Nitsch, posthumously

It was Nitsch’s last big wish to perform the “6-day game” again as “game master” – the pandemic got in the way. The planned date of 2020 became 2021 and finally 2022 – as a consolation last year in Bayreuth he was able to accompany a concert performance of Richard Wagner’s “Valkyrie” in Bayreuth with a painting event.

Nitsch’s posthumous total work of art on Saturday and Sunday also took into account the intensive engagement with Wagner: two orchestras with over 100 musicians directed the sequence of increasingly intense actions with bombastic compositions. From the disembowelment of pigs to the crucifixion of actors, processions and bloodshed and painting actions, the entire repertoire of expression that Nitsch had developed over six decades was represented.

If there was still a scandal during the “6-Day-Play” in 1998, when animal rights activists protested in front of the castle and some of the political side questioned the performance rights in Prinzendorf, last weekend the atmosphere was almost museum-like at the beginning. In any case, point one of the dramaturgical process – “the festival takes place in any weather” – was put to the test when Saturday began to rain.

Synesthesia with synthesizer

In his scores, Nitsch lays down many levels of events in detail, smells are choreographed just like the actual dramatic events and the painting actions. The “sensual” development that is laid out in the “6-Day-Play” did not want to condense completely at first – in addition to the well-known scenes of the crucifixion, the music under the direction of the conductor Andrea Cusumano was dominant. A long, constant synthesizer tone predominated in the frequent passages in which the actions were at a standstill and the actors only slowly prepared the next scene by providing innards, blood, grapes and tomatoes.

shipment notice

“kulturMontag” brings a follow-up report on the performance of the “6-Day Game”, second version. August 1, from 10:30 p.m. on ORF2.

Only in the repetition of the long-held tone and the suddenly sounding whistle, the starting signal for the blood-soaked scenes, did a dramaturgy emerge that knew how to captivate the audience’s attention. The whistle signals were taken over by Nitsch’s adopted son Leonhard Kopp and longtime assistant Frank Gassner.

Rooting action in cultural history

Nitsch’s theses on the “Orgy Mysteries Theater”, formulated early on, dig in the innards of cultural history, analogous to the actors. In a way, his theater should show how all culture is based on excesses of violence and ritualization, he repeatedly described.

While he always understood his exhibited works of art only as “relics” of the actions, all of which in turn were only preliminary stages of the “main work”, namely the “6-day play”, the second day of the performance on Sunday in particular led closer to that what Nitsch had in mind. Increasingly violent scenes, in which actors tied to crosses were covered with dead pigs and tomatoes, grapes and large quantities of blood were poured over them, unleashed a terror that was neutralized by painting with rainbow colors.

Impressions from the Hermann Nitsch 6-Day Game 2022

Hermann Nitsch GmbH, Photo_FEYERL

Counterpoint to the bloody myth: painting with rainbow colors

Even today, when the controversies surrounding Nitsch’s work have long since become historical, the score still plays on the keyboard of the audience’s emotions – even if individual stage directions such as the Beuschel toss out of the castle almost border on the grotesque: “from the windows of the castle become intestines and lungs in the yard

Private Myth and Pandemic

The through-composed olfactory level also began to fit into what was conceived as a “Gesamtkunstwerk” on Sunday due to the beautiful weather – alternating odors of blood and flowers reflected the alternation of conciliatory and frightening scenes. It is remarkable how profoundly this performance draws on the history of the theater – in a wide range from the Spanish religious Corpus Christi plays of the 16th century to Antonin Artaud’s Theater of Cruelty.

The designation “director” is also a tongue-in-cheek bow to this tradition – the baroque liked to see the world as theater and God as the highest director. Nitsch’s cross-connections of psychology, philosophy, music and drama combine to form a private mysticism, an alchemical science that actually only begins to breathe at the moment of the performance.

Excerpt from the score of the six-day game, second version by Hermann Nitsch Baranyi

Excerpt from Hermann Nitsch’s score of the “6-Day Game”, second version

A theater that is designed as a multi-day festival with emotional ups and downs and that is geared to getting the audience involved is having a hard time after weaning itself from the culture of presence due to the pandemic. This was evident on day one, when the otherwise underemployed security mainly tried to stop people taking photos with smartphones – an experience is only real if it can be posted on social media, it seemed.

According to Rita Nitsch to the APA, day three of the “6-day game” should take place next year, followed by days four to six in the next few years. Whether Prinzendorf will always be the stage for his actions in the future, as the artist had wished, depends on the finances. “If it’s financially possible for me, I’ll try to play excerpts or even several days of his ‘6-day game’ at regular intervals,” says Rita Nitsch.

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